In today’s post, I want to share some of the work I did with the 3rd teachers at PS 230 in Brooklyn, New York. When I met with this group of teachers we decided that we needed to do a lesson on helping kids know what to do when they were finished. Below I will share the thinking/conversations that we had before the lesson to create teaching/learning that helped kids to become more self-directed.
What would this lesson have looked like in the past? This is one of those lessons I have done in the past with my eyes practically closed. I would simply tell the kids that when they were done, they had just begun and I would either show them things they could do when they were finished or ask them what they thought they could do. The problem I found with this type of lesson is that either kids would still say the same the famous words: I’m finished or if they did continue working they were not doing quality work
What we ended up doing instead…. As the third grade teachers and I spoke about the lesson, we knew that we wanted the kids to understand a few things: First, we wanted the kids to realize that it was not a new topic as most of the kids had been in a Writing Workshop since Kindergarten. It was important for us to relay that to them because in the past we found that kids acted as thought it was a brand new topic. Prior to the lesson, we also consulted with the K-2 teachers to make sure we were specific with the kids about what they already knew about what to do when they were finished. We also wanted the kids to realize that this lesson wasn’t about just keeping themselves busy during this time, but it was about doing quality work.
These ideas led us to revise our typical lesson. Here is what we did instead….
First, we let the kids know that this was not a new topic for them. We then put them into groups and gave them 2 post its. We said that as a group they should talk about the kinds of things they could do when they were finished. We also asked to think /talk about how those things would help them not just stay busy, but improve both their products and their processes. We then said that after they spoke for awhile to write the two most important ideas on the post its and be prepared to share.
How did this help? We realized that by involving the kids in the process it made them much more engaged. Furthermore, it was huge that they understood that the purpose was to improve their products/processes, not to simply stay busy. It was also helpful for them to think about how their different ideas would help them as writers.
What would our next steps be? After we did the lesson, we noticed that kids were super focused on editing as what they could do when they were finished because they had just finished an editing units. We decided that we would revisit this chart at the end of every unit of study and ask: Now that you have learned new things in this unit what else can you do when you think you are finished?
In my book, Self Directed Writers: The Third Essential Element in the Writing Workshop I talk about how getting kids to be self-directed is a yearlong process, not a September process. Ironically, in the past I tended to do a lesson on what to do when you’re finished in September and then almost never revisited the lesson (and then wondered why they weren’t good at it)
I can’t wait to hear what happens in these classrooms when they do revisit this lesson at the end of every unit of study.
I want to end by just reminding all of you of how important getting your kids to be self-directed is….Teaching kids to be self-directed is not something extra to do if you have extra time or something to do with just your top students.
Some people say that with all of the new standards there is just not time to do this kind of ‘fluffy’ work. This is JUST NOT TRUE!!!! If you want kids to reach standards and be joyful engaged learners, then keeping them self-directed should be your priority for all of your students. .
I would love to hear your thoughts on this as well as other things you are trying in your classroom in order to get your kids to become more self-directed!
Unit next time,